2020: a year in review
This really was one hell of a year — good and bad.
Being born in 1999, this year is when things would naturally get really important. Things like turning 21 (all types of legal in California!) and graduating from college fall around this time for my ‘99 brethren.
So what were the biggest things for me? Let’s divide this into three sections: academics, work and personal life.
MAN. This year could have gone a lot better in this department. In terms of GPA, it looks like I have been doing a pretty good job. But that's really because I exercised the Pass and No Pass option pretty intensely (when it was available). To be honest, last semester (a whole 34 days in isolation) proved to be one of the better ones academically since all I could really do was sit down in my room and work.
So other than getting decent grades, I graduated! It was getting a little dicey in the end (thought I would not be getting that Communications minor) but I made it. Overall, the two semesters I had this year really taught me two things: databases is kind of interesting, but security is something that I should pursue in the future.
Taking CS 426: Security was really life-changing for me. I spent the first half of the semester screwing around (my last semester! better just have fun), so when the one and only midterm came around I had to start cramming.
To my surprise, I suddenly became interested in the 13 chapters that I was jamming down my throat.
I've always had a slight interest in using encrypted applications, and have learned a decent bit about PKC from my internship at Google, but delving into internet security as a whole really helped motivate me through the end of the semester. I think one of the high points of my semester was working on the IP packet spoofing project, where we had to use C types and structs in order to spoof IPs using the sniffex project. Learning about the structure of the packets was pretty rewarding and is something that I'm definitely interested in pursuing.
And to say a little more about my 3.5 years at Purdue CS, I would say my biggest takeaway is that **you get what you put into the experience**. You can coast through and not do any extracurriculars, or you can get involved and make some deeper connections and experience. Especially if you're like me and from the Bay Area, getting to know people from the Midwest and learning about how other people live their lives across the country was very rewarding for me.
Don't get me wrong, I am not a model student. There were some pretty bad midterms and even times where I wanted to transfer out of Purdue. But I believe the environment I was put in with my friends, The Exponent and my classmates at Purdue CS have definitely helped push me to grow.
Speaking of The Exponent: this has been one of the strangest years working there. I had to return to California in the spring when the virus first hit to be with my family, and when I got back to Purdue I wrote like three articles then got put into self-isolation for like a month straight.
Really not the year I was looking for.
Despite all that, I did have some achievements that I'm pretty proud of. My story on the murder of Tony Heathcote won two awards from the Indiana College Press Association (YALL IM AN AWARD WINNING JOURNALIST). I dipped my toes into some data journalism using some of em Python CSV skills, took a long exposure photo for one and wrote an article where the interviews were mainly done in Chinese.
One of the most rewarding articles (and surprisingly impactful articles I've written this year) is the one where I looked at the CARES Act number in the Big Ten and found that Purdue has given the least amount of money to their students (barring Northwestern). Apparently it was one of the better ones, with Purdue's Graduate Rights and Our Well Being Association took my article to the administration and demanded some of that money be used. Pretty pog imo.
The largest gain I have gotten out of working (internship and Exponent) has probably been how to build relationships. Before I used to have quite a bit of time on my hands so building relationships with people in the newsroom wasn't really a problem (since I could just be friends with all of them). But now that I'm entering the adult world and a lot of things are virtual, I've slowly started to learn how to build connections and what are the best ways to maintain them despite wanting to cleanse myself off of all social media platforms.
Going on to the computer science career side, I got a job!
In March, Google had not yet assigned me a project. So when I reached out to my recruiter, they kindly called me back and told me that they didn't have any projects for me to be assigned to. I had started looking for some other internships beforehand anyway, but I had interviewed with PayPal about a week before.
Without any time to waste, I got an email off to my recruiter, who replied very quickly saying that she was about to email me anyway.
I had a great internship at PayPal where I started to learn the ropes of aforementioned virtual (and overall) networking skills and how corporate software engineering works. In the fall, when I was job hunting, I got a return offer and decided that it was where I wanted to work for the future.
That being said, one of my goals for 2021 is to work on my networking and working knowledge, especially in the security realm. Having experience with projects seems like the number one way to get a better foothold in this field so I'll try to hold myself to that.
Some of my 2020 resolutions were to take some weight off and do 100 push ups a day. I am happy to say I have probably completed 75% of the latter and have definitely completed a little of the former. Unfortunately, lockdown and self-isolation messed with my fitness goals quite a bit.
I really enjoy working out at the gym. I find it a lot easier to motivate myself to get workouts done when I can decide which part of my body to exercise and when there's something to pick up and push, as opposed to body weight workouts. I've been working out with weights since I was in 8th grade, and if this lockdown keeps going for more than 4 months I might just cave and get my own barbell set.
Out of the fitness successes I have picked up, biking is probably my favorite. I started in the latter half of the summer and have tried to keep it up where I can. The act of biking is really freeing when you can't really go anywhere and there are great biking routes around the Bay Area. Though I'm in quarantine in Taiwan now (more quarantine! yay!) I'm looking forward to hiking and biking when I get back to California.
Another decision I had to make when I graduated was to live at home for the next few years. Bay Area rent is hella high, and looking at the math I thought it might be better to buy a house as opposed to renting an apartment. So I guess that will be something I'm interested in doing in about 3 years.
In terms of relationships with friends, I think I've done a decent job. I've reconnected with a lot of friends (via snapchat), and the rise of Discord has brought some of my friends back in the daily conversation. *Genshin Impact* in particular has been a great help in getting to talk to some of my friends daily.
But at the same time, I decided to cleanse myself of The Bird App.
Looking back at my time in high school and comparing it to my time in college, I was much happier when I did not have Twitter to look at. It's distracting, dramatic and chaotic. I think I can do without that in my life.
Following that philosophy, I deleted a lot of social media apps from my phone, leaving Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger and a few others.
Even in quarantine, I have felt a lot better with Twitter gone. I actually accidentally locked myself out of my main Twitter account anyway, and am considering just logging out of all my Twitter accounts but I've done a pretty good job of avoiding the app and the website.
So there you have it: a quick overview of my year. I'm not sure what I want to achieve in the next year, but I do have a few ideas and I think I'll come out with a blog post on it in the first week of January (which is tomorrow! holy shit.). Happy 2020 — stay safe and enjoy the rest of this bitter year.
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